Meal times on safari can often be a exciting, exhilarating adventure for your taste buds. However, sometimes it can be daunting too.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Usually very simple - cereal, salad, and steak, right? Not when you're on safari...
Many of the lodges in South Africa pride themselves on delivering high quality taste explosions, prepared by trained and experienced chefs with a whole list of credentials behind their title. Some of the dishes that we have experienced during our travels are worthy of winning the title of Master Chef, and have us drooling for days after. However, to a first time safari goer, or an international guest not used to the more traditional flavors, one might ask themselves....What on EARTH is a babotie, am I really going to eat an Impala, and WHY would I want to eat a tart made from.. MILK!?
If you are staying at a lodge for more than two nights, chances are you will experience a traditional South African meal. This can range from a relaxed braai, to something more formal such as a wild game platter. Let's take a look at some of the traditional meals you can expect while on safari.
To the rest of the world, a braai is known as something similar to a barbeque, minus the gas. Traditionally, a braai is is set in a round or rectangular container, with a grill placed on top. Coals or wood are used to create a long lasting, hot fire. Meats such as steaks, boerewors (meat sausage with South African spices), peri-peri chicken (a popular chilli infusion) and lamb chops are 'braaied' upon the grill until cooked to perfection. Accompanying the meat are often 'braai brookies' which are small breads with a filling such as garlic or cheese inside, and are also braaied until the inside is perfectly melted. To compliment the meat and bread, salads or vegetable side dishes (such as potatoes or corn cooked in foil on the fire, or butternut and creamed spinach) are also served, along with many different sauces and chutneys to flavor your dish as you like.
Babotie, at it's most simple form, is a curried mince dish topped with a sort of savory 'custard'. I don't like to use the word custard, because it gives the wrong impression. It is basically an egg based topping, but doesn't taste anything like it. Flavored with curry powder, babotie is often also mixed with dried fruit such as raisins, contrasting the curry nicely. There is no proper way to truly describe babotie, as the thought of eggs and raisins definitely can lend a gruesome idea, but believe me - this is NOT the case! Babotie is a delicious dish, and I urge you all to try it if offered.
A traditional dessert, Milk tart (or melktart) comprises of a thin, sweet pastry base, and is filled with a delicious creamy mixture of milk, flour, sugar and eggs. Baked in the oven until set, it is sprinkled with cinnamon and is generally served chilled.
Malva pudding, also a dessert, is served fresh out of the oven all warm and moist. It is a spongy and sweet treat, made with apricot jam and served with custard or ice cream. Mm, mm, mmmm!
Biltong is a type of cured meat, very traditional to South Africa. It is often served on game drives along with other snacks to keep you replenished on your safaris. Biltong is generally made from beef, and spiced with salt, pepper, sugar and other flavorings. For the more adventurous, game meat such as kudu, impala, warthog, hippo, giraffe and ostrich can also be found.
While there are many traditional meals served to give guests an opportunity to try the local cuisine, they do not make up the majority of the menu. There are many Western dishes also served, along with other foods from all over the world.
When in Africa, do as the Africans do - try as much as you can!